Yesterday’s Spy

Written by Tom Bradby
Review by G. J. Berger

August 1953. Harry Tower, world-weary and recently widowed British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) spy, wakes out of deep sleep to a 3 a.m. phone call. His news reporter son, Sean, is missing in Iran, so Harry rushes from London to chaotic Tehran. Shah Pahlavi has been stripped of power and fled but strikes back with his own coup attempt, aided by loyalists and the CIA.

Tower finds Sean’s beautiful, outgoing Iranian lover, Shahnaz, and the pair chases down leads to Sean. She helps by translating the language and navigating their rented or stolen cars in Tehran and to faraway outposts. Harry employs his still-sharp hand-to-hand combat and shooting skills to thwart multiple attempts on their lives. He is injured but recovers quickly. Iranian gang leaders, various embassy personnel, local police, and even Russian operatives claim Sean went missing for writing about government drug corruption. Some rumors say Sean is dead, while others claim he’s alive but hidden. It seems the SIS has a mole in its London office, who for years sent details of SIS operations to Russia, and suspicion falls on Harry as the traitor. Flashbacks from Harry’s capers in Germany, Yugoslavia, and Albania, and from his troubled relationships with his wife and son, cut into the Iran action.

This spy thriller gives readers informative insights into little-known Iranian history and the groups scrambling to control its oil wealth in the 1950s. Bradby’s descriptions of the settings, unruly mobs, and constant heat feel real. However, Harry’s true motives as spy, husband, and father remain unclear. Less frenetic activity and fewer characters might have allowed room for a better understanding of Harry and a more compelling story.